First Annual Shepherds Farm Market
A joint effort by the Frederick County Sheep Breeders and the Maryland Sheep Breeders Associations
Were your sales impacted this year by the lack of fiber festivals, fairs, weddings, and other gatherings? Ours were too and we thought of a new way of bringing our wares to the public: A special Shepherd’s Farm Market! It was the brainchild of Polly Matzinger, brought into the real world by Patty Sanville, and launched on April 3, 2021, at the Frederick County Fairgrounds (home of the The Great Frederick Fair).
Because Patty and Polly are, respectively President and Vice President, of the Frederick County Sheep Breeders, and also happen to sit on the board of the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association, they brought the idea to life for both memberships. It was an opportunity for the members to get their products into the hands of customers, to educate the public and to meet their fellow producers from the two organizations. On the day, twenty-six shepherds representing the two associations gathered on the fairgrounds and set up tents and tables to showcase their products in this (hopefully) First Annual Shepherds Farm Market. Those who didn’t have their own tents rented some from the fairgrounds (for the minimal cost of $15), and those who didn’t have their own tables and chairs were loaned some for free. The Fairgrounds staff, in effect, did everything they could to make this a successful event, even moving some bright yellow jersey barriers to mark out and protect the space.
The shepherds brought all kinds of products raised on their farms. There were fleeces, yarn, pelts, finished toys and garments. One shepherd brought amazing sheep milk cheeses. One shepherd also has a brewery on their farm and brought beer and ciders. There were several meat producers selling lamb cuts for the holidays and upcoming barbeque season. There was a fiber mill that not only sold the fiber products they produce, but were willing to transport raw fleeces back to the mill, saving producers the time and gas to get our fleeces to them. Several shepherds produced soaps and lotions. There were also infused olive oils, baked goods, fall fruits, honey, and spring vegetable seedlings.
The product diversity was exciting. We felt a warm connection as a community, and, almost without exception, the vendors enjoyed it, were successful, and want to do it again. We received many thank you’s from customers and vendors alike.
We are currently collecting data from a survey we sent to this year’s participants as we look ahead to a possible fall event and another next spring. One question that everyone (so far) has answered with a definite “yes” is the addition of a food truck. So, we’ll add that next year, along with the potential for a face painter and perhaps music. We also have space for more vendors, and, of course, the more we have, the greater potential for an even wider diversity of products, which should bring in even more customers. Please reach out to either of us if you would like to participate in future reincarnations of the market or have further input (all ideas appreciated!), or if you would like to help us put on the event next time. A few more hands/brains/eyes and enthusiastic ideas would definitely be welcome! : >)
Polly Matzinger [email protected] 240-444-2047
Patty Sanville [email protected] 240-357-1437